Jodi Hartzler, Mother

Jodi and Tate HartzlerMy name is Jodi Hartzler. I am a mom to two boys, Gavyn and Tate, and wife to Ryan. Tate is our youngest son, and his journey with liver cancer began when he was two months old. He was constantly vomiting, not gaining weight, and just not eating well. On August 19, 2011 he was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer.

Statistics say that hepatoblastoma occurs in only 1 out of 1.5 million children. That’s a very rare cancer. I can tell you all about the chemotherapy he endured, the surgeries, the hospital stays, and all the times we thought we were going to lose him and how chemotherapy is affecting him now. But I wouldn’t be telling you anything that most of you don’t already know and understand.

So I decided to tell you about something different today. I was sitting at my local farmer’s market, promoting CureSearch and our Walk, and I was shocked by what I was seeing. The majority of people did everything they possibly could to avoid me. As soon as they read what I was there for, they would not make eye contact with me. They would walk on the opposite side of the aisle and definitely were not going to talk to me.

Don’t get me wrong, there were people that stopped and asked questions and wanted information, but not near as many that stopped at the spayed and neutered booth next to me. So to say the least, I was bummed and surprised at how people reacted. I did not realize how taboo children’s cancer was. People really do think children’s cancer is rare and it is easy to not acknowledge it, therefore believing it doesn’t exist.

Tate HartzlerWell, as we all know, it is far from rare. As Tate was going through treatment, I began understanding more about children’s cancer. I realized there had to be more for our children. What many people didn’t know is that while I was in college, I worked in the hematology/oncology department at the Wells Center for pediatric research at Riley Hospital for Children. I already had a general knowledge about cancer in children and how common it truly was. But being that I had been away from that area of medicine for a while, I was surprised to learn not much ad changed. Yes, there was new technology, but not really any new treatment plans.

So I started looking for answers and stumbled across the CureSearch website. I couldn’t believe all the information I found. There was information about the types of children’s cancer and treatment options hospitals are using. It featured research that is being done through CureSearch and ways to get involved. When I checked out that section I was thrilled to find that they held a fundraising walk. They even had one in Indianapolis, and I had never heard anything about it. That is when I decided we have to do this. And this is now our third year participating.

Why CureSearch? Not only do they have compelling information on their website, but they have been funding research for children’s cancer for over a decade. They are committed to finding a cure for our kids and future children that will face a journey with cancer. Something CureSearch does that I have not seen anyone else do with funding is if research is not moving forward, the funding stops. Researchers have to show progress in order for funding to continue. I think this is awesome and keeps research from becoming stagnant. CureSearch is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of everyone facing a childhood cancer diagnosis.

Jodi and Tate HartzlerBut CureSearch needs our help so they can continue to help children with cancer. We need to make childhood cancer not taboo and uncomfortable to talk about. We need to create and spread awareness. We need to talk about it. So I am asking now to learn more about CureSearch and to tell everyone your story and why this cause is important to you. Tell them about CureSearch and how they are accelerating the search for a cure. The only way we can find a cure for this monster is if people understand children’s cancer is not rare. The research is necessary for finding a cure.

Finally, I leave you with advice that I would give to a parent of a child with cancer: Have faith. You are not alone. There are so many of us out in the world that are going through this or have already been through it. We understand and respect all the feelings you are having. Join social media support groups. They are a safe place to vent your frustrations. Ask questions, understand your situation better, and have “friends” to support you with NO judgement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help because there are so many that want to help and love you through this awful journey. They just sometimes don’t know how to help you. So don’t be afraid to tell them what you need and to lean on them. And of course, check out CureSearches website for tons of helpful information and support.

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